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REF NO.: 240

SUBJECT: Statements from the Board of Regents of Memorial University of Newfoundland
DATE: Aug. 6, 2008

Statement # 1
 
Re: Memorial University’s Autonomy
 
·         The Board of Regents of Memorial University of Newfoundland is concerned for the autonomy of the university.
·         The Board is of the opinion that the university’s autonomy has been called into question by recent public statements.
·         The Board supports and endorses Acting President Dr. Eddy Campbell’s statement of Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.
·          Memorial University, like the great majority of Canadian universities, must be free to operate at arm’s length from government, while adhering to provisions that allow for appropriate government oversight and accountability. Autonomy is vital if our university is to fulfill its commitments to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.
·         The Board recognizes that the process of independent selection of a university president underpins the important principle of university autonomy and the independence of university governance.
·         The Board’s appointment of a candidate for president must be the result of a fair, thorough and comprehensive process that is strictly in accordance with the provisions of The Memorial University Act.
·         The Board is concerned that government’s non-acceptance of the candidates and government’s request that the Search Committee continue with its search before a formal recommendation could be made on the
Board’s proposed appointee constitutes inappropriate interference in the normal process.
·         The Board will be consulting with the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, on the matter of autonomy.
·         The Memorial University Act is clear in delineating government’s role and the Board of Regents is committed to ensuring that role remains within the letter and spirit of the Act.
·         The Board endorses the suggestion of Dr. Campbell for a meeting with government as soon as possible to clarify the matter.
·         The Board is concerned that progress in the search for a new president will be severely impaired until such clarity is obtained.
·         The Board of Regents respectfully recommends to government that it amend The Memorial University Act to better reflect the autonomy of the university and to be more in line with appointment practices at other Canadian universities. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s right of approval dates back many decades and is somewhat unique in Canadian universities. In most other jurisdictions, governments have entirely removed themselves from the process, instead choosing a more appropriate involvement through arms-length mechanisms such as governing boards.
·         The Board notes the Acting President’s recognition of a productive working relationship with this Minister and her staff, and is committed to see that continue.
 
Statement # 2
 
Statement from the Board of Regents with respect to the Process involved in the Search for the next President for Memorial University of Newfoundland
 
·         The Board of Regents realized at the outset that an international search for a university president is much more than just the evaluation of candidates who are highly accomplished, successful individuals with significant national and international reputations.
·         Attracting the right candidates for consideration and developing their interest in leading Memorial University is a significant part of the Search Committee’s challenge.
·        Just as candidates promote their qualifications, strengths and vision, the search committee is charged with promoting to them the strengths and potential of Memorial. Because of Memorial’s importance to the province, the Board of Regents has to emphasize to all candidates how Memorial ties in to the social, cultural and economic development of Newfoundland and Labrador.
·         Premier Williams did not impose himself into the process. Early in the search process the Premier indicated to the Chairman of the Board of Regents that, if the university felt it would be helpful, the Premier, if asked, would be willing to meet prospective candidates to promote the province, to emphasize the importance of Memorial to the province and to confirm the government’s strong commitment to university education in Newfoundland and Labrador.
·         The Chairman of the Board of Regents brought the suggestion to the Search Committee and the Board of Regents, both of which felt that this involvement by the Premier was a positive step. The decision to proceed with these meetings was made by the Search Committee supported by the Board.
·         The candidates on the short list were informed that such an informational and promotional meeting would take place.
·         When the time came for the candidates to have these meetings, the Premier was unavailable and he asked the Minister of Education to step in.
·         Subsequent to those meetings, government informed the Search Committee that the candidates were not acceptable and asked the Search Committee to expand its search and develop other names for consideration.
·         This was a surprise to the Search Committee which had identified Dr. Eddy Campbell as its preferred candidate.
·         The Board feels that there was no inappropriate interference by government or attempt to influence the work of the Search Committee until government informed the Board that the candidates were unacceptable prior to a formal recommendation of a preferred candidate being made.
·         These events have caused a significant delay in the work of the Search Committee.
·         Memorial continues to be ably led by Dr. Eddy Campbell, as acting president and vice-chancellor. Dr. Campbell is a great leader and an internationally acclaimed scholar. He has the full support and encouragement of the Board of Regents. He has done a superb job in leading the university through the past several months and inaugurating the activities of Memorial’s new strategic plan; a plan he played a lead role in developing.

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